It’s difficult to say exactly how much wind is too much wind for sailing, as it can vary depending on the type of boat and the experience of the sailors. In general, it’s best to check the weather forecast and local wind conditions before going sailing to ensure that the wind is not too strong for your boat and crew. If the wind is strong, it’s important to use extra caution and make sure everyone on board is prepared for choppy water and potentially rough conditions. It’s also a good idea to have a plan in place in case you need to head back to shore or take shelter in a safe harbor. Ultimately, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and avoid sailing in winds that are too strong for your boat and crew.
Personally, when I sail a dinghy sailboat I prefer to stay under 18-10 knots, however, larger sailboats that have a fixed keel (and therefore more mass) are much easier to sail in high winds. In fact, wind is not the limiting factor with keelboats because they can reef their sails to prevent overpowering the boat. Additionally, the keel acts as a counterweight to the force of the wind to prevent a capsize. Waves on the other hand are often what can limit the mobility of a keelboat in high winds.
Here are a few tips for sailing in windy conditions:
- Before heading out, check the weather forecast and local wind conditions to make sure the wind is not too strong for your boat and crew.
- Make sure your boat is properly equipped for windy conditions, including having all necessary safety gear and extra lines and fenders.
- Adjust the sails to reduce their surface area and make the boat more stable in the wind.
- Keep the boat pointed into the wind as much as possible to maintain control and prevent the boat from capsizing.
- Use extra caution when tacking and jibing, as these maneuvers can be more difficult in strong winds.
- Be prepared to head back to shore or seek shelter in a safe harbor if the wind becomes too strong.
- Communicate with the crew and make sure everyone is aware of the plan and prepared for the conditions.
- Stay alert and pay attention to the wind and water conditions at all times, and be ready to adjust your course or take other action as needed.